Lightning in the Earth System

A lot of my recent research (grants, papers, students) has been related to lightning, partly because it’s an incredibly fun area of research, but the more meaningful connection to my other research is that lightning triggers fires, and fires are essentially my primary research interest. Here is some of the research MESAS is doing related to lightning:

–> I just published a paper on how CMIP5 climate model output and lightning observations from satellites can be related

–> I now have two sources of funding to support lightning work. Some of this supports Thomas Winesett, my Masters student. The rest supports the work I will do in the Summer 2015 to continue this work and work on a publication.

–> My current Masters in Earth Sciences student, Thomas Winesett, is working hard to evaluate the utility of satellite microwave remote sensing data as a method to determing lightning. His focus is the contiguous USA where there is additional lightning data to corroborate any findings he makes. Preliminary findings are really solid, and Thomas is presenting at the AMS Student Conference and AMS Full Conference.

–> A past undergraduate researcher (Amber McGinnis) studied lightning data over Charlotte area to try and figure out if there is anyplace in the Western Piedmont that gets more lightning, and why. Results were never very conclusive, but the project is waiting for the next lightning-savvy student.

Finally, not really a research tool (yet), but our building on campus has a lightning sensor installed and the data gets uploaded to a national network of sensors that triangulate and classify lightning for paying customers. This was an opportunity that popped up and was a pretty low-cost install, although we found out that lacing co-ax cable from the roof of McEniry to the first floor (about 70 feet as the rock falls) takes about 200 feet of cable! Happy this all worked out and UNC Charlotte gets to be a part of a bigger picture.